“Maybe Riyad had a problem coming back from the summertime, not the World Cup.”
That was Pep Guardiola’s assessment of Riyad Mahrez’s (£5.8m) sluggish start to the campaign and subsequent resurgence.
The Algerian winger desperately struggled for rhythm in his first nine outings this term, failing to register a goal involvement or even a single Dream Team point.
However, he broke the shackles at the start of October with a goal and assist in a Star Man showing against Copenhagen in the Champions League and he hasn’t looked back since.
Mahrez has scored ten goals and provided four assists in his last 15 games, a run that also includes four Star Man awards.
Having started Game Week 8 with zero points, the four-time Premier League winner is set to end Game Week 19 with 103 to his name.
Despite giving his peers a massive head start, Mahrez is one of only five midfielders to have celebrated their century at the time of writing, alongside Bukayo Saka (£4.1m), Martin Odegaard (£3.6m), Bruno Fernandes (£5.6m) and Kevin De Bruyne (£7.3m).
In fact, the 31-year-old is third among assets in his position right now, an extraordinary achievement given he essentially overslept at the start of the season.
And it’s probably because of his false start that Dream Team gaffers have been slow to back Mahrez.
Even now, after 60 points across the last four Game Weeks, he only appears in 7% of teams – he’s less popular than Christian Eriksen (£3.4m), Pascal Gross (£3.4m) and Dejan Kulusevski (£3.8m).
Having publicly acknowledged Mahrez’s poor form at the start of the campaign, Guardiola has heaped praise on the winger in recent weeks and while second-guessing the decorated tactician’s starting line-ups is easier said than done, this one seems like a lock for now.
It’s worth noting that Mahrez has outscored De Bruyne, Dream Team’s leading midfielder, by 24 points since that game against Copenhagen that started his fruitful run.
Got a transfer or two remaining from January’s allotment? You could do a lot worse than recruiting City’s No26.